REVIEW: STYLISH LOEWE BILD 3.55 OLED TV IS A CLASS APART
The Loewe Bild 3.55 OLED TV is a fine looking flatscreen, in every sense.
Loewe was one of the first TV brands to elevate the design of the humble television into something that approached art. Under the guidance of creative director Bodo Sperlein, it brought a sense of minimalist refinement to its flatscreens; it wanted them to look as good off as on.
With the Bild 3.55, it’s clear the German brand hasn’t run out of ideas. Despite the fact that this is ostensibly a Loewe ‘budget’ offering, it has embellishments that will delight those looking for class above cost-savings.
The Loewe Bild 3 line-up actually consists of both LED LCD as well as OLED models. The version we have here is a 55-inch OLED, but there’s also sibling 3.49 and 3.43 LCD screens. Stylistically, they all look exactly the same. Good news if you want to deploy multiple Loewe TVs around your house, and have them match.
The TV sits on a pedestal stand, and features a distinct circular LED status indicator. A forward facing speaker array (we hesitate to call it a soundbar) is finished in an acoustically neutral charcoal fabric. Look top right, and you’ll find the Loewe logo on a tag jutting out from the ultra thin aluminium bezel.
The glass itself is just 4.9mm thin, but fills out to accommodate connectivity. There are four HDMIs, all HDCP 2.2 compliant for use with other 4K UHD gear, plus micro AV, a trio of USBs, Ethernet and a digital audio output.
When you connect an HDR source, it’s important to ensure all the relevant HDMIs are set up correctly. Uncheck the Compatibility mode in the HDMI menu, as this is intended for older devices only. This is the only way your TV will recognise that it’s getting an HDR signal.
The supplied remote control has commensurate heft, and sports a nice hairline finish. There’s nothing plastricky about this pointer. It’s premium all the way.
While Loewe doesn’t have a smart portal able to rival LG’s webOS or even Android, what we do have is perfectly functional. Loewe TVs have long offered a level of connected smartness, so it’s hardly late to the party.
A clean, smart OS combines streaming services with a channel guide and inputs selection and settings. I like the fact that the graphics are customisable, so the UI can be made a bit more bespoke and intuitive. Professional custom installer types will like this Bild’s connectivity too, because it has integrated support for popular control systems (Control4, Crestron) and third party smart home ecosystems (like KNX).
Everyday folks will probably be more impressed by the fact the set supports Bluetooth headphones. This is a great feature for late night listening (and those wanting to escape noisy households).
Another nicety is the optional DR+ upgrade, which allows you to spec an internal hard drive recorder. When you have multiple Loewe connected TVs on your home network, you can watch recordings made on one set, in another room, and even follow programmes on connected screens around the house.
Picture quality is immediately impressive. Just like every other manufacturer, Loewe sources OLED panels from LG Display, but brings its own sensibility to image processing. The black level performance of this set is predictably dramatic, while colour vibrancy is high. Images have eye candy pop and deep impact.
While Loewe doesn’t submit screens for Ultra HD Premium certification by the HDR Alliance, this model clearly exceeds that specification. The Bild 3.55’s HDR performance is impressive. In addition to HDR10, there’s support for HLG and Dolby Vision HDR.
We measured peak luminance at 749 cd/ m² (aka nits) in a 5 percent window, and only slightly less in a 10 per cent window. HDR sequences are handled with a natural balance, offering convincing spectral highlights (reflections, headlights, the sun etc) and inky blacks.
The Image preset options are fairly limited, and comprise Home, Premium, Cinema, Shop and Personal. These rotate to HDR Bright, HDR Dark and HDR Premium, when you input high dynamic range content.
The Cinema mode is arguably the least attractive. It adopts an overly warm tone, which robs the screen of contrast. With 4K material this dilutes fine detail. The more neutral Home mode proves to be the best option for most viewing.
There are some additional Loewe picture options which warrant a closer look. For example, Image+ Active is a bespoke picture processing mode with Soft, Normal, Extended and Intensive settings. It’s intended to give images enhanced contrast, but can engulf near black shadow detail. Our advice is treat it with caution.
More useful is a deblocking filter, which compensates for low compression artefacts from streaming video services.
The set also boasts DMM image interpolation for better motion handling. It comes in Soft, Middle and Intensive strengths, but while it smooths fast moving sports, it can add visible MPEG artefacts. If you want to keep movies looking cinematic, it’s probably worth turning DMM off.
Sonically, the set is solid. That forward facing speaker proves to be extremely powerful. Rated at 2x40w, it creates a wide stereo soundstage. Bass response is lightweight, there’s nothing below 100Hz, but for everyday viewing it more than does the job. AV enthusiasts will probably want to partner the panel with a top flight AV receiver anyway. Unlike LG’s screens, there’s no Dolby Atmos audio decoder onboard.
While the most obvious source for the Bild 3.55 is UHD Blu-ray, it also looks outstanding with high resolution games, although you’ll need take care with the viewing mode. Using the Home setting, image lag is way too high at 106.5ms. Move to the Gaming mode and it offers a more respectable 39.9ms - although this is still relatively laggy. Loewe should be pushing to get this below 30ms.
The OLED TV market may be hugely competitive right now, with both Sony and LG delivering some astonishing screens, but Loewe continues to carve a niche all its own. We’d like to see Loewe engineers fine tune the Gaming mode, and perhaps update the Cinema preset to better represent the modern movie experience, but these are small caveats. Overall, the Bild 3.55 is a highly stylish flatscreen with a fine picture performance and above average audio.
If you want to improve your image, Loewe is a good place to start.